BMN Blog

MAY 08
Listening to Improve Relationships and Outcomes

As our society transitioned to mobile phones, a frequently overheard question and related advertising theme was “Can you hear me now?” 

Fast forward … more texting, tapping and scrolling and less talking translates to less listening.

Listening is foundational to learning in the classroom setting, business environments, social surroundings and particularly, in our personal relationships. It can be referred to as an art, skill and gift. As such, listening needs to be continually practiced and honed to fully benefit from its value.

In healthcare, listening is a critical component in the patient care equation. Nearly every patient encounter begins with asking questions about symptoms, severity, history – seeking information to formulate a care plan for diagnosis and treatment.  The data and responses are captured in medical record systems ranging from hardcopy charts to Electronic Medical Record (EMR) software solutions.

Technology in our healthcare system adds sophistication to diagnosis and treatment but cannot replace the importance of listening in face-to-face encounters. Laptops and tablets can be barriers for providers to listen as they multi-task on keyboards and touch screens. Distracted listening can lead to misinterpretation, missed information and potentially, detrimental results. Multi-tasking, accepted as a key to efficiency in our work principles, can reduce effectiveness when key points have to be repeated or are missed entirely during dialogue.

The challenge in our relationships, including our healthcare interactions, is to bridge the gap between the speaker and listener when technology and other distractions vie for our attention. Active listening is a strategy to improve communication and move beyond just hearing to being fully engaged in the conversation. Active listening requires focus and training to become an effective tool for communicating. When employed, listening can improve relationships and ultimately, the outcomes of our efforts, both personally and professionally.

Listening is instrumental in developing mutual trust and respectful relationships. Within such relationships, people tend to share deeper details and become more receptive to feedback as there is a sense of personal value. In healthcare, trusted relationships can open the pathway to improved care and outcomes for the same reason. 

To incorporate active listening skills into your conversations, consider these key strategies: 

  • Give the person(s) with whom you are interacting your full attention. Eliminate distractions such as smart phones and watches.
  • Listen intently. Avoid anticipating what the speaker will say and planning your response.
  • Listen with interest. Ask for elaboration. Verify and clarify your understanding.
  • Resist the temptation to interrupt. Wait until the speaker has completed his thought. Be patient.
  • Use nonverbal cues to convey attention. Incorporate eye contact, smiling and nodding to connect with the speaker. 

As technology is integrated into every aspect of our lives, it is crucial for us to actively listen in order to experience connection, gain insights and move forward with wisdom.

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